December 12, 2009

Shopping Post: Stocking Stuffers

Brooke writes:
O! Swistle! I have a passel of kids, and I am totally strapped for stocking-stuffer ideas. The kids are Boy, 12, and Girls, 10 (steps, not twins) and I am looking for non-lame small things to give to them. These are the Kids Who Have Everything, so it's kind of tough to come up with things that won't get kicked under the bed and forgotten by Epiphany. Not having my own blog, I humbly request the help of you and your internets.

My stocking stuffer strategy is to buy stocking stuff all year long. I'm always seeing crappy little toys on 75% off, so I buy them when I see them and put them in the closet. The best finds come from the party supply section, where I'll often find crappy little toys in 75%-off 6-packs.

As it gets closer to the holiday, I start on food. I sometimes find individual snack packs marked down: after Halloween I got a 20-pack of chips at 50% off, and last month I found Raisinets, Combos, Twizzlers, and gummy bears all in individual packs at 50-75% off. I don't, like, QUEST for such things, but if I see them while shopping I think, "Oh! Maybe for stockings?"

But! I go for flash and short-term and cheap thrills in the stockings, and also my kids are mostly younger than yours, and also we are a little late for all year long at this point. So let's see if we can come up with some workable ideas. (Here's last year's post on stockings, which was more focused on little-kid stuff but the comments section might be useful.)

Normally I would think of DVDs and CDs as gifts rather than stocking stuffers, but sometimes you can find them pretty cheap, and they do make more lasting items than the 6-packs of party trinkets. Is there any TV show they all like? You could get a season and put one disc in each stocking. Do they like similar music and are they good at sharing? Then one CD each is almost like three CDs each.

The shipping on this set of wire puzzles makes me clench my teeth, but if you could find something similar locally you could split the pack up among the stockings.

My kids always want the interesting hand soaps (like the one that puts "squid ink" on your hand), and I'm always saying no. They also want certain fruit scented shampoos I think smell icky, and I'm always getting the ones I find more tolerable. Both items make good stocking stuffers.

Are there snacks/treats they want that you won't get for reasons such as price or nutrition? Perfect for stockings.

A pair of gloves is practical and also kind of fun if they're in fun colors or patterns. Scarfs and hats, same thing. The Children's Place has nice gloves/scarfs/hats for $5 each. I mean, times 3 that adds up, but if they need them anyway it can come out of the clothing budget rather than the holiday budget.

Oh, and cute socks! Well, maybe the boy will not appreciate those. But the girls might.

Rubik's Cubes.

One Christmas ornament each. This is a fun holiday tradition anyway. This year I got my kids initial ornaments at Target: there are silver cursive ones for about $7 each, which I got them a few years ago, but this year I got them some brightly colored plastic ones that were $4 each. I write the year on the ornaments with a permanent marker.

Paperback book. If they all like the same series, you can buy a set and split it up.

At a local craft store I found a TON of good stocking stuff: little $1 kits that make a Christmas ornament, clearance beads, fun craft supplies.
My older two have been dying for this Fifteen puzzle but there was no way I wanted to spend $10 on it, even though it IS super retro cute. But when I was looking for it for this post I found it was marked down to $5 and I bought two of them instantly.

New toothbrush. Not exciting, but fills the stocking and is useful.

More ideas for Brooke?


Anonymous said...

My mom used to get us art/school supplies (colored pencils, cute erasers and pencil sharpeners, that sort of thing).

Safire said...

We used to get lots of candy and an orange in our stocking. Also, a calander, a tooth brush, and one other semi-expensive thing that kept our interest for awhile. Like a book or a new CD. My parents also left our stockings in our rooms and we had free rein to go through them while we waited for the parents to wake up and okay us for going downstairs. Seriously, bought them at least another hour of sleep.

Fran said...

We always got candy, nuts (still in the shell) and an orange in our stockings--one year my brother forgot his orange in his and the next year when we were decorating it was...ummm, interesting?--so we do that as well for our kids.
I love the idea of the stockings in their rooms to buy us extra sleep!!
We have done the spinbrush toothbrushes with the characters on them, but that may be a little young for your set. We also include a small toy or two, even opening a package and just putting in the toy.
Sometimes what you have for the stocking doesn't fit in there so you can put a scrap of paper with clues to finding it in the house somewhere...good for kids who like pirates!

Kim said...

We always loved our stocking stuffers, no matter what cute little weird stuff it was. As my sister and I got older, they started putting little girly make-up things in them, like nail polish and lip glosses. Cheapie jewelry also went over well.

Laura said...

We do stockings for everybody who comes to our house. So this year, that's 12 stockings to fill. An orange, nuts, and candy tend to fill most of the space. Have you looked at Hobby Lobby or Borders? Both tend to have bins of cute toys to stick in them.

For our 18-month-olds, we're sticking in two board books, fat crayons, coloring books, bubble stuff, and a toy car in addition to a bit of candy and an orange. Try places like the Dollar Tree for stuff like that. Ours has a small selection of children's books and coloring books, and we always pick up some candy and wrapping supplies there. Dollar Tree has sparkly crayons and stuff, too in big packages. More value for money, I think...

Laura said...

Oh, swistle, on the present hunt... My grandma and I found something we think is really cool for the little kids... Imaginarium Musical Table. It looks really cool, and it's fairly affordable over at Toys R Us. (Amazon wants more than double Toys R Us's price.)

Lindsay said...

I love and miss stockings so much. Can't wait for kidlets so I can fill theirs.

-Do they play a sport? We played hockey so got hockey tape, sock tape, and other little things you use during the season
-movie tickets
-chocolate OF COURSE
-maybe Itunes gift cards in this day and age?
-stickers for their lockers - Underarmour? Mac?
Basically anything to keep the kids entertained until it's time to open the real presents.

Stimey said...

Seriously, Swistle, you are like the repository of all knowledge.

Elizabeth said...

We always do oranges, candy canes, and stuff like socks and hot pads. Cost Plus/World Market, if you have one, is pretty great for stocking stuffers.
I also like this set of stuff from Garnet Hill - it's intended for advent calendars, but I bet it could cross over pretty easily.

Anonymous said...

Chapstick, hair things, a small journal, socks, a disposable camera, mittens/gloves, bubblebath, baseball cards, little make up/nail polish things, silly putty, obviously candy but interesting or novelty things (maybe Bertie Botts every flavor beans if you have a Harry Potter fan), etc. You could make up little "Get out of a chore" tickets, or movie date w/ mom and/or dad (attach to a microwave popcorn), or ice skating or bowling, pizza night, etc.

One thing I do especially w/ our almost 2 year-old and also 4 year-old, is things they have forgotten they have and left abandoned, I make them disappear over the year and then wrap them up and give them again! Very cost efficient and they are none the wiser! With older kids, you might be able to do this by trading w/ close friends or relatives-do we really need to buy new joke books every year? Get creative and don't blow the bank!

Ally said...

When I was a kid, I'd get bubble bath every year in my stocking. I remember looking forward to it every time!

Jessica in Canada said...

Swistle, seriously, I love you, I love you blog, I love your posts, you are so witty, and down to earth.

But I could not believe what I was reading today. If these kids "have everything" they don't need more stocking stuffers!

I am not trying to come down on anyone, or make anyone feel bad; everyone can decide what they want to do at Christmas.

But it is my opinion that if kids already have a lot, they don't need more just for the sake of getting more. If they are already getting their regular gifts, why not give them the gift for the person who has it all? Donate a gift to someone else. I really like the gift catalogue from World Vision (and other organizations have similar catalogues):

Perhaps Brooke could just give her kids their regular gifts. If she doesn't want to fill their stocking with things they "need" (like socks, toothbrushes, lip balm, deodorant), then she can tell her kids she donated the money and bought some poor kids a chicken or a goat. It's good to think of others and do something good for those less fortunate no matter what your religion. Just my opinion.

anatomist said...

i totally respect (and do) the donate-in-their-name thing, and i totally think that would be ONE great stocking stuffer, but in our household stockings were the best part of christmas. we didn't have much money, so their weren't that many gifts, but stockings were always jammed full, because it isn't hard to make a stocking overflow and seeing that always made me feel like i was rich! i always got fruit in the bottom to weight it down and that became breakfast. there was also usually something really cool in the bottom with it like a small book or art supplies or something (i think art supplies are THE BEST for stockings. inexpensive but valuable and great for filling it up.) the rest was fun but useful things, tasty chapstick, a little nail polish (when i was older), fancier candy or chocolate (or carob since i have never had that much of a sweet tooth). also mugs, postcards, and keychains. i always loved getting gift cards too, depending on what your shopping/money policy is with your kids,but i loved having "money" of my own to spend and it made for an adventure with a parent to go find the right thing to spend it on. and you can choose a place you want them to shop at, like a science/learning shop, or your favorite toy store, or target if you know you'll want to go hit their after christmas sales!
oftentimes things that are boring to us (because we can always grab chapstick at the checkout) are more fun for kids because they are "adult" things.

denese said...

we always got toothbrushes, too! still do...i'm 25, married, and have my own baby. and i'm looking forward to my new toothbrush from my mom. and all the other same-thing-every-year like the orange, big ass candy cane, lipsmacker, bubble bath, and ugly as hell jewelry (my mom tends to give people what she wants them to have, not what they'd like).

maybe to make it more exciting for the kids and take the pressure off herself, maybe brooke could let each kid draw another's name and fill that stocking? if they've already bought a gift for each other maybe it would be too much. but being permitted to go wild at the dollar store with $10 to fill each other's stockings would have made my siblings' and my whole year.

Clarabella said...

We never did stockings at our house. (I know! Gasp!) But I seem to remember all my friends & boyfriends getting stuff like toothbrushes & razors & gum & stuff. I always thought it was a good way to get/give stuff that people sometimes don't buy themselves.

Celeste said...

Do a theme of stuff they can keep in their backpack: hair things for the girls, comb or folding brush, lip balm, deck of cards, Sudoku book, cool pen or gel markers, pack of gum, water bottle, clip-on item for the zipper pull, etc.

I am generally down on the "goodie bag" mentality of stocking stuffers as we are always stemming the tide of junky plastic around here.

Anonymous said...

I get the thinking but I'm not in love with the party favors as stocking stuffers. Too many piddly little cheapie plastic thingies. :S I, too, tend to go more for art/craft supplies (99cent cans of play-doh, modeling clay, chenille stems, new crayons, window markers), the "special" toiletries (fruit soaps from the Body Shop, bath foam or crayons, novelty shampoos), and a variety of goodies and treats (bag of m&ms, suckers, gum). Inexpensive flashlights or binoculars, new rubber balls or yoyos are all big hits with my older two boys (ages 5 and 6.)

Oh and we always, always have to include a Life Savers storybook! :)

Christina said...

When we were a little older we got cute little mini games, crafty kit type things, and also food things. Bisquik makes the little "shake and pour" bottles we were thrilled to get one year. We even made breakfast, if I remember correctly. I think my mom did the shop-all-year approach and also cutesy things from thrift stores or garage sales that she knew we would like, but weren't big enough or packed enough WHAM to be a gift on its own.

Heather R said...

I saw those wire puzzles at Staples two days ago!

Anonymous said...

I have older kids (14 and two 10s who are twins) and I second the idea of little things from your local art store - cool pens and mechanical pencils, erasers, one year I got my most artsy one a pocket size little mdelling figure. Another place I've often hit the jackpot is museum gift shops especially if you have a science or childrens museum although I've done very well at my city's modern art museum gift shop too.

Marie Green said...

My kids (ages almost 7 twins and 3, all girls) are getting a clementine or orange (always), an aluminum water bottle (something I've been wanting to buy them anyway), some Pocky (do you know what Pocky is? EVERYONE should get Pocky in their stocking!), new electric toothbrushes (the $5 Target ones that come with tooth paste), and a few other smallish things that I can't recall right now.

We do a small amount of candy and a candy cane each, but the rest is "fun stuff" that they "need" anyway. Oh! Also, chapstick.

I love the idea of Brook's kids filling each other's stockings. That sounds like a win/win to me.

Leslie said...

The wire puzzles are also frequently part of the party favor collections.

Like Safire, my sister and I could get our stockings whenever we woke up, but we had to wait for daylight to get my parents up. Stockings were such a part of our celebration that we still get them (I also get a themed stocking for my December birthday, like all snow themed), and my mother's stocking is her only gift from me (still pricey, though, since we don't do food unless it comes in a Pez).

I think a perfect stocking has to include one glowy or shiny thing, like a glow-in-the-dark bracelet or button-battery flashing earrings. Oriental Trading Company is my go-to place for those as well as stickers, tiny slinkies, friendship-bracelet kits, plastic lizards, small stuffed animals, and the like. Any extras can be closeted for emergency party gifts or Toys for Tots. It's all made in China, though, if you have a problem with that.

This year, I love the Battery Snaps from Perpetual Kid that turn a 9-volt battery into a really bright LED flashlight. $5 sounds expensive, but the battery itself is about $3. The site also has some cute themed band-aids and an expensive-but-cute Hello Kitty flash drive.

For older kids, there's Archie McPhee's collection of flavored dental floss (waffle, cupcake, salad), bacon toothpicks, action figures of the likes of Poe, Freud, Alexander the Great, and lots more.

For the practical, there's the sample aisle at any drugstore.

SIL Anna said...

For the girls, you could get them some letter sets or deco tape from someplace like

Astronaut ice cream?

Nicole said...

I like edible stocking stuffers, and when I was a kid I LOVED those Life Savers story books.

C C Donna said...

Hair stuff, fun gloves, fun pens and my girls still remember that they got a cute pair of underpants. Also, lip gloss and furry animal key rings. A brush for pocketbook. Gosh...girls are easier.... We got chocolate candy in mesh bags disguised as "gold" coins.

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

HEEEYYY!! I didn't think of bags of chips!! Nice. My kids like to get candy and crap because, well, it's CANDY and crap. But CHIPS?!? I am so on this. They are BIG. They fill space!!

el-e-e said...

I always forget that clementines and electric toothbrushes can make the stocking HEAVY. I do not need one of my heavy stocking hanger things falling on the kids' heads. Last year I remember one stocking was precariously tipped up on its edge after filling the stocking!

So just be careful with all these great ideas, Brooke. :)

Brooke said...

Thanks, all! I thought I'd posted a thank-you earlier, but I don't see it now. I've got some great ideas from you guys!! Thanks too, to Swistle for posting my question!!

Ms. Molly said...

I always loved my stockings filled with a magazine and or book, jewlery (inexpensive!) like earrings or bracelets, toilitrie items, candy, underware/socks, and always an ornament!
Good Luck Brooke!

Alice said...

i'm 29 and still love opening my stocking on xmas morning! :-) when i was younger - especially preteenish age - art supplies were the ABSOLUTE BEST to get in mine.

Callie said...

My favorite place to go for stocking stuffers is Dollar Tree. For the girls - hair/makeup/jewelery stuff, scented bath stuff, scarves, gloves, cute pen and notepad combos. For the boys - card games, scarves, gloves, baseball caps. More expensive items will include a CD or DVD (always hit the day after Thanksgiving sales for those), maybe a video game or book if there's a particular one they're into. Then, top it off with a bit of candy, and they're good to go.

Lora said...

I've been looking EVERYWHERE for a rubik's cube and it's driving me nuts.

Also, I like the shopping for stockings all year round too.

Finally, one of my friend's moms used to wrap up one and five dollar bills in little boxes and stuff the stockings with them.

It looked great for pictures, and the kiddos were happy with their money.

the new girl said...

I'm envious of your all-year planning ability. I can't even plan what's for BREAKFAST.

This post made me want to cry. My mom made the BEST stockings and we were allowed to open them, no matter how early we woke up. (It was way early, usually.)

We always had an orange, too. It goes in the TOE of the stocking...

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

Art supplies are always good. Also for the girls cute socks. Old Navy is having those cute soft fuzzy ones on sale on Saturday for $1. I'm stocking up.